While we have done everything in our power to prepare an application for opening grades 1-6 this fall on campus via the waiver mentioned in prior communications, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced late this afternoon that it will not review or accept any waiver applications. According to the State of California’s guidance, the County should not consider any waiver applications until its case rate is less than 200 per 100,000 residents. Currently, the LA County case rate stands at 355 per 100,000. As we shared previously, kindergarten students will still have the choice to return to campus as of August 31, under the licensure of our Early Childhood Center (ECC), which will also be on campus. Once County numbers decrease and we are given the go-ahead from local government, we are fully prepared to immediately pivot and provide on campus instruction as an option for all VBSDS students. As we conclude a very successful one month session of Camp Kef on campus, we are confident that VBS has set protocols in place for a safe return to both work and school.
Regardless of how our extraordinary education is delivered, VBSDS will continue to be a vibrant community full of caring families, building connections together. We realize that for some families, the prospect of beginning the year with virtual learning is disappointing and possibly even overwhelming. We hear you, and we are committed to helping parents and students prepare to maximize the virtual experience, which is the only option for teaching grades 1-6 at this time. Our incredible Director of Student Support Services, Nicol Katzir, will continue to guide us with parenting tips, techniques for supporting student social and emotional health, and will help us through the disruption of our day-to-day lives brought on by COVID-19.
We are fully prepared to launch Virtual VBSDS. After reflecting on all that we learned this spring, we have made significant improvements. Over the summer, teachers attended online courses and workshops to learn new skills to enhance the online class experience. We saw firsthand how powerfully our teachers were able to connect with students through synchronous (live) classes and we also learned that we need to balance our students’ minds, bodies and souls. This year, we will create schedules rooted in social emotional learning. We will encourage “brain breaks” and movement, connecting in a synchronous fashion with peers and instructors, and encouraging self-motivation through asynchronous lessons. We will also use assessments to provide additional information for teachers to meet the needs of each unique learner. Home practice in certain disciplines (homework) will be added to our virtual program, and teachers will evaluate students in all subject areas using the academic grading system reflected on report cards. Creating lessons that are more interactive, learning to engage reticent students, and examining new strategies and techniques to use when teaching math are just a few examples of the professional development workshops attended by our incredible staff.
NEW DIRECTOR OF ACADEMIC TECHNOLOGY
We are thrilled to welcome our new Director of Academic Technology, Nathaniel Hanna. Nathaniel comes to us with experience, expertise, and enthusiasm. Most recently, he worked at Odyssey Charter School. He will direct our Boudai Family Innovation Lab, teach innovation classes at all grade levels, and will act as the primary provider of professional development in the area of technology. He is already working to establish a more streamlined approach to assist students and teachers with technology integration, and is exploring new and improved security filters to help parents monitor student activity online. Nathaniel has been evaluating the online learning protocols and staying abreast of current trends. He continues to network with other technology professionals and schools to make sure that our program is robust, rigorous and engaging.
BACK TO SCHOOL SOCIALIZATION
We hope to introduce you to your instructors and share the grade rosters very soon. We have designed interactive experiences for your children to connect with their teachers and friends. These opportunities will either be online, via a drive-through format, or both.
OPT INTO OUR SHARED COMMUNITY
For me personally, this time has been one full of the emotions I associate with wandering in the wilderness. On the one hand, we have been planning and building with little to no guidance as to what this may look like or how it will unfold. On the other hand, the light of our community and the leadership of our administration, and especially our outstanding teachers, has given me great faith that this will be a year of innovation, ingenuity, and creativity. Let’s model for our children what grit and resilience look like and how we gain strength by banding together and opting into our community at this time.